Bad Baby Sleep Habits

We teach our babies sleep habits that make them dependent on us rather than ones that build confidence and self-calming ability. The most common baby sleep habits that lead to poor slumber are bed-sharing and being put in bed asleep.

For example, the Sleep in America poll found that:

  • 60% of infants are usually rocked to sleep (which is wonderful for newborns but can become a problem later on).
  • 75% of infants fall asleep every night nursing or drinking a bottle.
  • Many infants bed-share, which makes it easy for them to insist that their parents soothe them back to sleep—each time they awaken.
  • As previously mentioned, only a third of parents use independence-building sleep cues like white noise or loveys every night. 

Doctors in Rhode Island found that 3- and 8-month-old infants fell asleep easily­—at bedtime and after nighttime awakenings—if they used loveys and a dummy. The doctors also reported that all the poorly sleeping 8-month-olds—about 1 in 3 infants—were put into their cots already asleep…and none routinely received a lovey!

Ditching Bad Sleep Habits Is Good for Baby—And Good for You! 

Being your baby’s sleep aide is fun and cuddly, and I am all in favour for it as long as you are happy with it and always put your baby to sleep in a safe location.  But if you are tired and frustrated, this is the right moment to help your infant learn some new habits. Here are clues that it is time for a change:

  • You are exhausted: you are overeating; short-tempered with your toddler or partner; spacing out at work; driving dangerously because you are so tired; feeling depressed; or considering smoking cigarettes again.
  • You are frustrated: You do not know what to do about your infant’s sleep resistance, night awaking, dependence on bed-sharing, and frequent night nursing. And you are bickering a lot with your spouse.
  • Your child is unhappy: She is extra cranky; cries at everything; has no patience; seems overtired; gets super irritable at bedtime; or awakes crying during the night.

If you are seeing these trouble signs, it is time to swap your problematic sleep cues for ones that boost sleep and nurture your child’s calm, confidence, and competence. Do not get me wrong…you should give your little lovebug tons of holding, rocking, patting, and suckling. But to avoid sleep problems later, you need to focus on sleep cues and routines now that will teach her to self-soothe.

How Do I Break My Baby’s Bad Sleep Habits?

The best way to start removing a dependence on being held and rocked to sleep is to use the wake-and-sleep technique every time you put your little one down to sleep.

A short summary of how to do it. Before laying your baby down for a nap or the night—wrap your child in a snug swaddle, put on white noise as loud as a shower, offer a feeding, and let him drift to sleep in your arms. BUT, right after you slide him into his cot, rouse him until his eyes open (scratch this toes, tickle his neck, etc). After a few seconds, he will fall back to sleep.

If he cries, he may be uncomfortable or hungry for a meal, so pick him up to feed and settle him, but be sure to awaken him again slightly right after laying him back down.

Yes, this technique may sound odd, but trust me: Those few seconds of drowsy awakenings are helping your child learn how to sleep through the night!

Baby Sleep Aides to Help Break Bad Habits

Did you know? Happiest Baby’s SNOO uses the same scientific principles as the wake-and-sleep technique. SNOO helps establish great sleep habits from day one and sleep trains babies automatically—often without cry it out. Learn more.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.